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How Time in the Kitchen Can Be Quality Time with Your Kids

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Kids Chopping 3

Being a small business owner and entrepreneur is one of the great joys (and challenges) of my adult life. While it can often mean that I have a flexible schedule that allows me to be present for my kids, there are also times when the work load is crazy and long hours are required. During a recent busy stretch, as I was tucking my younger son into bed, he told me that he missed me. When I asked him what he meant, he said that I wasn’t spending as much time with him and his brother anymore because I was working so much {INSERT MOM GUILT HERE}.

That night, as I processed the guilt-bomb that had just been dropped in my lap, I tried to come up with ways to restructure things so that I could still take care of all of my work and home obligations, but also integrate more quality time with the boys. I came up with a number of solutions, but one of the most obvious (for me) was to use time in the kitchen as quality time with my kids.

If carving out quality time with your kids is something you are trying to get better at too, here are some ways to use time in the kitchen as quality time with your kids.

Quality time in the kitchen

How to Make Time in the Kitchen Quality Time with Your Kids

Before we talk about some times in the week that I have found are best to cook with kids, I wanted to share a little bit of advice about how to set yourself and your kids up for success when spending time together in the kitchen.

Exercise Patience

When kids join you in the kitchen, mistakes and messes will be made. This is to be expected, since they’re learning (and are kids). It can also be really hard to handle when you are short on time, tired after a long day, or just like to keep your kitchen orderly and tidy. So try to see this as a time for your kids to work on their cooking skills, while you work on your patience. Take deep breaths and try to think before your react to a mess or mistake (speaking from experience, this can be hard but is important!).

And if the mess really gets overwhelming, I encourage you to use it as an opportunity to teach your kids about the fun and importance of cleaning, too.

Give Them Tasks They Can Do

The goal here is to have your kids enjoy cooking with you, after all the point here is to spend quality time together. This means that you want your kids to feel that they have successfully contributed to the group cooking effort. In order to achieve this, try your best to assign tasks that are developmentally appropriate. For some ideas, check out my post on how to involve kids in the cooking.

Make It Fun

Since the goal here is to spend quality time together, we want to make sure the time is fun. Here are some ways to add to the fun factor:

  • Play music
  • Taste different ingredients along the way and talk about them
  • Smell the spices together (my kids LOVED doing this when they were little)
  • Ask for advice – get them to taste test a dish with you and decide what it needs – more salt? more spice? more liquid?
  • Celebrate the final product by serving it on “fancy” dishes (another one of my kids’ favorites)
Teaching Kids Self Sufficiency in the Kitchen

Good Times to Cook with Your Kids

While ideally we’d love to be able to invite our kids into the kitchen at any time, the reality is that with tight schedules, making the space and time to welcome them with open arms can be challenging. Here are some of the times that I have found work best for my family.

Sunday Family Cooking

Given busy schedules, cooking together during the week can be challenging for a lot of families. What is more, as my kids have gotten older and more activities have filled their schedules, weekend days are also quite busy. One time, however, when we are almost always guaranteed to be home together is Sunday evening. So this has become a time when I will often ask if my kids want to cook with me.

On Sunday evenings, I often prepare a large meal with the intention of using leftovers throughout the week, which means there are usually lots of tasks for family members to help with. Sometimes they’ll help with chopping or mixing ingredients and sometimes I’ll assign them a dish to make on their own. Either way, we put on some fun music and chat away while we cook together.

I find that this is a great, less-rushed time when I can slow things down and teach them new cooking skills and/or we can experiment with flavors together.

Kids watching oven

Weekend Morning Baking

Each weekend, I try to make one big breakfast for all of us to enjoy together. This usually involves some sort of baking project, the leftovers of which become breakfast and snack options for the week. On weekend mornings when they aren’t rushing off to soccer games or band performances, I will invite the boys in to bake with me. Because of our busy schedules, sometimes only one of my boys will have the time to help, but that one-on-one time can be nice, too!

When they were younger, they helped with mixing and measuring the ingredients. Then, when they began to learn how to read, tasking them with reading the recipe was a fun challenge. And now that they’re older, I have started taking a step back and letting them prepare the dish themselves, staying present to share tips, answer questions, and chat.

kids salad

Weeknight Appetizer Assembly

Both of my boys love to invent appetizers based on what they can scrounge up in the fridge. Oftentimes, these are crudité platters that are arranged in funny designs, but sometimes they are more complex. It’s a time when I let them just play, experiment, and get creative in the kitchen.

I have found that the ideal time for these experimentations is during the weekday evening crunch when I’m desperate to get dinner on the table, but they are done with homework and looking for something to do. We can have fun talking about different flavor combinations and ideas they have, while I am still able to accomplish the main task at hand: getting dinner made.

Do you have ways to connect with your kids in the kitchen? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Want more tips on how to successfully cook with your kids, plus some fun recipe ideas? Check out our post on how to get your kids comfortable in the kitchen.

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